Focus is firmly on caring for our common home

The powerful message of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ brings the realisation that now, more than ever with climate change and COVID fundamentally reshaping global society, is the time to act for the future of our planet.

Catholic Earthcare has developed the Convocation, a series of comprehensive online sessions designed to explore eco-theology, eco-literacy and the financial, social and economic underpinnings behind a more sustainable future, overlaid with a Catholic lens.

Being in relationship with our Mother Earth: formation of our hearts through eco-literacy

Laudato si’ is an incredibly powerful document – I’ve quoted it extensively in both Catholic and secular contexts in my work in community engagement and natural resource management. By itself, it is a testament to scientific rigour, human compassion and understanding the challenges humanity faces. As a statement by a world leader, it is exceptionally powerful – it doesn’t greenwash, seek approval, voters at the margins or social media clickbait. Something to which many apparent leaders would do well to listen. Laudato si’ is a strong guiding moral and spiritual compass for all of humanity – those of a Catholic or Christian persuasion and otherwise. It is honest, upfront and unwavering in calling to the front what humanity must do to care for our common home, uplifting in its delivery and an excellent example of translating scientific and research-based knowledge into accessible language that all can understand.

The follow-up – the statement released by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – is the translation of Laudato si’ into action. Indeed, we celebrate the Special Anniversary Year of Laudato si’ (24 May 2020- 24 May 2021) in unprecedented and challenging times – and perhaps in a way that shines the light on just how dependent, interconnected and preciously valuable and delicate all life on Earth is. Here at Catholic Earthcare, we’re working on bringing the Dicastery document to life; focusing on our Church calling us to really respond and act now.

In relationship with God through formation of our heart: the theological and moral imperative to care for our common home

The First Nations people of Australia, and indeed all over the world, have an intimate connection to country; they know how to care for their common home. This respect-based relationship, where the land is the sustaining lifeblood and the provisioner of the ecosystem goods and services (such as water, clean air, soil, and abundant food) on which all life depends. If we are to address the current ecological crisis, then we must engage with, listen and learn from the “principal dialogue partners” – our First Nations and all Indigenous peoples (LS: 146; Gaston Kibiten, St Louis University, 2018).

We must also consider our relationship with the world’s financial, economic and political systems that underpin the care of (or lack of care for) our common home. At the macro scale, this is about social injustice, and the injustice that unfairly discriminates against those most vulnerable and marginalised; numerous examples come to mind, but fundamentally the world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to climate change and the fragility of the planet (LS:16). They will feel the impact of climate change first, and it will be brought on largely by the affluent, selfish actions of those in more privileged, more isolated circles of society. Even within our own circles, it is the youngest people, and their children, and future generations who will feel the deepest impact of our selfishness, our greed. They must contend with a planet that will not afford them the life-sustaining systems on which we currently rely, the social stability and the relative peace living memory has been afforded.  Numerous international secular and Catholic reports have concluded a bleak future resulting from weather, conflict, social instability and scarcity should we fail to act now.

We are not mere observers of this system; we are agents of change, and we are capable – and indeed the change must come from us. Change does not always come easy, or without cost. Being selfless and generous is key; I think as Christians, as people of faith, we are well placed with teachings of empathy, morality and the common good.

We – Catholic Earthcare, Catholics and Christians – must support faith-inspired actions. At the centre of faith-inspired actions throughout the Gospel is love. Love is the central tenant of Catholic and Christian faiths, and indeed at the very centre of all the worlds’ great faiths. And at the centre of Laudato si’ is love – we do this out of ex amore, out of love for Mother Earth, for creation and for our fellow human.

In relationship with our world’s financial, economic and political issues that underpin care for our common home

As we enter the Season of Creation, we will be asked to contemplate our relationship with Mother Earth, to creation, to one another. We will be called to both give thanks, and consider our impact on the planet. We must face a reality so succinctly summarised in the 2020 Season of Creation prayer: “We have not allowed the land to observe her Sabbath, and the Earth is struggling to be renewed.”

We must respond with an ecological vocation; a lifestyle where we consider our circles of influence, our networks, the decisions we control, and start there. From divestment, to more sustainable consumption; the ways and means of transitioning to a more sustainable, equitable lifestyle and living an ecological vocation is not impossible. It is doable. It is our duty and our calling as followers of Christianity and the Catholic faith.

Our Pope’s message transcends the national and international borders, politics, and other “great divides” that separate and divide us. As humanity, we must come together. As a Church, we must come together. We must listen to the message of Laudato si’ and act upon it. Perhaps my favorite Laudato si’ quote sums up what we must do as members of the Catholic faith: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

The Catholic Earthcare Convocation runs throughout the Season of Creation. Featuring speakers from eco-theology, ecology and finance, this powerful, free online conference delivered across 10 individual sessions will demonstrate how to live a Catholic ecological vocation.

Clare Vernon is an ecological justice resource specialist for Catholic Earthcare, part of Caritas Australia. She holds a BSc in environmental systems, and has volunteered for numerous years in the environmental not-for-profit sector. She now works in program development and is about to start a PhD at Deakin University looking at international conservation frameworks in policy. She resides in Melbourne with her partner, two dogs and pet parrot, Lemmy.

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